Inslee makes tough law on cell phones and driving take effect early

Gov. Jay Inslee signs a bill that prohibits holding an electronic device while driving. (Photo: KOMO News)

TACOMA, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee stunned supporters of the new distracted-driving law on Tuesday.

Instead of taking effect 20 months from now, you'll have to give up holding a cell phone while driving in just 90 days.

The governor says the new cell phone law (SB 5289) just can't wait. He stood near a crashed car that took the life of a young woman who was texting.

"I am vetoing section 5," said Inslee to the crowd. A stunning surprise for the victims' families who thought the law wouldn't take effect until Jan 1, 2019. "The effect of this action is that the bill becomes effective 90 days from today." Cheers went up. "Obviously you agree with that."

The families say it was hard enough to get this bill through after several years of trying and now this new development. "I was shocked and thrilled beyond belief that he vetoed that portion of the bill," said Theresa Fawcett, who lost her sister Jody Bagnariol and her friend Lis Rudolph in a distracted-driving crash.

The new law says you can't hold your cell phone in your hand while you drive. It has to be in a holder or on a console. You can touch the screen, but not write anything or watch a video.

Families pushed hard for this with emotional testimony. Tina Meyers held up her son's photo. "This is our son, Cody. On Dec. 15 this contributed to his death," she said then holding up a cell phone. He was killed by a distracted driver as he worked as a flagger along the roadway.

Lawmakers heard story after story. "There will always be an empty chair at our table and an ache in our hearts," said Lavera Thompson who's grandson Sam was killed in a distracted-driving crash.

The governor also signed the new Felony DUI Law (SB 5037) which makes a drunken-driving conviction a felony on the fourth conviction. Right now it's the fifth that triggers a felony. The governor says it sends a strong message, "That we will no longer accept multiple impaired drivers without a felony conviction."

The governor chose the State Patrol district headquarters in Tacoma for this saying the troopers need more tools to keep all of us safer on the roads.

Not only will the distracted driving ticket cost you $136, it will also be reported to your insurance company. The new law takes effect the middle of August.

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